2023 SLSQ Awards of Excellence Winners

September 6, 2023

Congratulations to our 2023 Awards of Excellence winners.

Volunteer of the Year

Winner – Jesse Witt, Etty Bay SLSC

Jesse is a key volunteer of the Etty Bay SLSC where he wears many hats from being Club Captain, Trainer, Assessor, Official, Drone Operator to Director of Youth & Membership where he leads by example showing that you can do these roles at any age. He is also the State Co-ordinator for Youth Development for Leadership Excellence Programs where he has been heavily involved in facilitating Branch and State Camps and was invited to be a Co-ordinator of the Surf Life Saving New South Wales Leadership Development Program.

Jesse is proud yet very humble of his achievements and has a strong passion for the red and yellow. He is also very cognizant of the effect that surf lifesaving can have on an individual, family and community. Jesse is keen to ensure that there are opportunities for those living in North Queensland and is a great role model for the surf life savers of future.


Surf Lifesaver of the Year

Winner – Gavin Kugler, North Gorge, North Stradbroke Island

In their first year as Club Captain this nominee has done an exceptional job. Despite declining membership, they managed to coordinate patrols at two beaches, was a patrol captain, area coordinator for the wave runners and personally completed an impressive 425 patrol hours.

This season they were part of a team that completed a successful rescue and CPR on a young girl and assisted with the floods. In addition to patrolling this Surf Lifesaver was the President of the old boys, chair of the clubs 75Th anniversary committee, and yet still found time to support their Surf Woman of the Year entrant and attended the SLSA Masterclass. From Point Lookout SLSC congratulations Gavin Kugler.


Club of the Year

Winner – Miami SLSC


Youth Surf Lifesaver of the Year

Winner – Brittany Hooton, Emu Park SLSC

Brittany captivated the judging panel from her opening statement: “I want to be a young female leadership role model for others. I want them to see me on the Management Committee and believe that they could also do that one day.” Proud to be from a regionally based club, Brittany is an unassuming allrounder. As Club Captain at Emu Park, she never steps back from a challenge, last season taking on new and unfamiliar responsibilities including the training and compliance program for the club’s new jet ski in addition to overseeing the trial drone course. The club has also increased its patrol groups, adding another two to take the tally to a total of 13 – a feat that the club has not achieved for many years.

In addition, Brittany is an active surf sports competitor and won the Open Female Cooloongatta Gold in October last year. All this while completing a full-time physiotherapy degree! Demonstrating skills beyond her years, Brittany has advocated, educated, and negotiated with other members of the club to ensure the best possible outcomes are achieved for all members.


Special mention: Kye Yeabsley, Arcadian SLSC

Only 12 months with Arcadian Surf Club, Kye stepped into the Director of Lifesaving role and took on Patrol Captain for a group of 8 U17 young guys from Magnetic Island: a humble role model who proudly watched these young men grow and develop into active lifesavers. In his spare time, Kye creates social media and marketing content that has expanded the clubs reach in new and creative ways.


U14 Junior Lifesaver of the Year

Winner – Emily Robins, Redcliffe Peninsula SLSC

Emily has had a massive 2022/23 season as Junior Club Captain, attaining her SRC and First Aid awards, performing over 100 patrol hours, and was also the registered First Aid Officer on her patrol. She took every opportunity to learn from multiple PC’s, whilst involving herself in water safety, the nipper program set up and pack up, age manager assistance, fundraising and surf sports where she competed in R&R for the first time achieving Branch Gold and 4th at Junior State Titles

Emily provided ongoing input to her Junior Activities Committee, advocating change and improvements to the Junior program. She also attended the Pulse Junior and Camp Commando Development programs, and competed in the PCYC Cadet Emergency Services games, placing 3rd overall. She is also Captain of her Div 1 Brighton soccer team and is an assistant Scout Patrol Leader and is currently undertaking her Australian Scout Medal for leadership. This season Emily was awarded Sunshine Coast Branch U14 Junior Lifesaver of the Year, Club Nipper of the Year and Most Outstanding SRC of the Year.


U18 Junior Lifesaver of the Year

Winner – Matilda Stone, Arcadian SLSC

This Lifesaver’s remarkable dedication and commitment to their club, their community and their Branch has earned them the prestigious Under 18 Lifesaver of the Year Award. In a society that can be preoccupied with individual pursuits, the recognition of this Lifesaver’s achievements serves as an inspiring reminder that our youth have the capacity to make a profound impact on our organisation.

Our winner has met (or smashed it as our panelists commented) the criteria of being able to demonstrate their commitment to all areas of Lifesaving including Suf Sports, Leadership and extracurricular activities. Testament to their leadership qualities they were appointed their clubs Youth Liaison Officer and in doing so made an immediate impact increasing youth member numbers threefold who went on to acquire their Bronze or in the process of undertaking it. Our winner this year also became a probationary trainer, upskilled themselves in awards, and was recognised for their efforts at Club & Branch level across Lifesaving & Surf Sports.

We congratulate Matilda Stone as our State Under 18 Lifesaver of the Year – she is a doer, a problem solver, encourages all to get in and have a go, and is passionate about her Club & her Branch and what it needs for the future. By presenting this award to Matilda not only do we celebrate her exceptional achievements but encourage others to follow her example.


Special Commendation – Natalie Cook, Etty Bay SLSC

In such a small club Natalie is to be celebrated for her diverse skills and adaptability in her club and is there to help wherever and whenever needed. With her respectful manner and cheerful ways Natalie is engaging with all nippers and parents and her enthusiasm and club and community spirit need to be commended.


Andy Frizzell OAM, OBE Award

Winner – Kim O’Neill, Tannum Sands SLSC

Kim has introduced new initiatives to the Tannum Sands Nipper program, including twilight Nippers to combat tricky beach conditions, which engaged nippers and their parents in social evenings filled with different activities. Working hard to prevent member burnout and ensure handover of knowledge, Kim has a strong focus on succession planning and sharing the load as a team, which will secure Tannum’s success well beyond her term as JAC. One of her proudest achievements this season was doing a rescue alongside cadet members of her patrol and seeing them flourish into competent young Lifesavers. Kim has demonstrated an outstanding level of commitment this season in junior activities, getting involved on and off the beach to ensure the Tannum Sands Nipper program was a huge success.


Special Commendation – January Mierzejewski, Sarina SLSC


Junior & Youth Development Club of the Year

Winner – Arcadian SLSC

Arcadian Surf Life Saving Club for their outstanding achievements and contributions in fostering a thriving community of Junior and Youth members. With a dedication to inclusivity, skill development, and a strong emphasis on family involvement, Arcadian SLSC has demonstrated a remarkable commitment to nurturing the next generation of surf lifesavers.

Arcadian Junior and Youth program is truly commendable, with an impressive 239 members. Made up of 194 Nippers, and an additional 45 belong to the Youth category. This diverse membership comprising 133 females and 106 males, is a testament to the club’s ability to engage and inspire a wide range of young individuals.

The innovative approach of conducting dual Nipper programs at different locations on the same day is a reflection of Arcadian SLSC’s commitment to accessibility. By providing options for both Magnetic Island and mainland members, the club ensures that geographical barriers do not hinder participation.

Particularly noteworthy is the astounding 177% increase in Youth member numbers within the 15 – 18 age group, defying statewide trends and showcasing the club’s capacity to engage older members effectively. The club’s commitment to youth engagement is further demonstrated through its remarkable achievement of 100% of U14 members completing their SRC and becoming active patrolling members. The introduction of the Youth Liaison Officer role is a testament to Arcadian SLSC’s forward-thinking approach. The club has effectively created a bridge between the teen group and the Youth Development Officer, as well as the Club Management Committee. This communication channel serves as a vital link, enabling seamless interaction and understanding between the club’s leadership and its young members. This approach not only enhances engagement but also empowers Youth members to actively contribute to the club’s decision-making processes.


Innovation Award

SLSQ Nomination for National – Maroochydore SLSC: Membership Development Health & Wellbeing Program

Maroochydore SLSC’s ‘Membership Development – Health and Well-being Program’ stood out as an innovative and impactful initiative that not only addressed the specific needs of its members but also had broader positive effects on their lives and the community as a whole, making it a deserving recipient of the innovation award. These sessions ranged from long-term member and athlete development to anti-doping awareness, women and girls in sports, overcoming adversity, sun safety, nutrition, and personal health. This diversity ensured that a broad spectrum of member needs and interests were addressed.

The program was designed as an educational initiative to support and enhance the well-being of its volunteer members. It addressed the club’s recognition of the significant contributions made by its members and aimed to offer practical education and awareness tailored to their personal circumstances. Importantly, the program didn’t end with the sessions, but served as a gateway to additional support for members. It also encouraged them to seek support in areas like nutrition, sports psychology, and health check-ups.


Sunshine Coast Branch: Pulse Jnr Advanced Lifesaving Program


Community Education Program of the Year

Winner – North Kirra SLSC: Code Orange Mental Health

As Depression/Mental Health issues are ever increasing in our Society, We believe this was an excellent idea/opportunity for the Club to tackle this subject in what seems like a very relaxing/inviting forum.  This was open to all Club members, youth and adults and shows that Mental Health can affect anyone and not just those we feel may be vulnerable.  It also reinforced how Surf Lifesaving is a family/community and that help exists for all no matter what and if this program got anyone talking or knowing what to look for or how to help our fellow members or public in general it certainly builds for better people within our society.


High Commendation:  Mermaid Beach SLSC: Mermaid Marvels

Again, a wonderful program to allow young children of all walks of life to be able to participate in a lifesaving program to get them involved in water/beach activities.  It also provides an excellent opportunity for the youth to get involved to assist those that aren’t quite as fortunate as themselves and to negotiate challenges they may not otherwise have to navigate. This is a great example of our inclusive and Diversity objective being put into Practice.


Assessor of the Year

Winner – Lisa Maddison, Miami SLSC


Trainer of the Year

Winner – Gary Williams, Ellis Beach SLSC

Gary Williams is an active trainer at Club and Branch level, having also assisted at State run courses in the past. He is the driver behind Branch conducted IRB driver and crew courses at the start of each season, overcoming logistical challenges presented by stinger enclosures and beach closures due to jellyfish. Not only does he train Junior Activity, Resus, Bronze and IRB courses for club members, he shares his knowledge and passion for lifesaving by educating members of the community.

Gary conducts live-in Bronze Camps for at-risk indigenous students from local high schools in a partnership with the Clontarf Foundation. He attends local primary schools to train children on basic water safety awareness and marine creatures; and recently trained members of the local fun run groups on the use of their newly purchased AEDs.


Athlete of the Year

Winner – Elizabeth Forsyth, Currumbin SLSC


Junior Athlete of the Year

Winner – Grace Hughes, Tugun SLSC                     


Youth Athlete of the Year

Winner – Callum Brennan, Currumbin SLSC


Masters Athlete of the Year

Winner – Stephen Fry, Northcliffe SLSC


Official of the Year

Winner – John Brennan, Currumbin SLSC

Special Commendation – Fiona Grant, Cairns SLSC


Professional Coach of the Year

Winner – Kurt Wilson, Currumbin SLSC

National Nomination for Coach of the Year


Volunteer Coach of the Year

Winner – Clay Lennox, Dicky Beach SLSC


Sports Team of the Year

Winner – Hunters Boat Crew, Currumbin SLSC


Sports Team Manager of the Year

Winner – Kurtis Smith, Currumbin SLSC


Lifeguard of the Year

Winner – Matt Hadland, Sunshine Coast 

Matt has contributed to the service with his professional can do approach and has demonstrated fantastic leadership qualities for many years. Matt has been a lifeguard on the Sunshine Coast for over 20 years, with a vast experience completing major rescues and major incidents. He has recently taken more responsibility to write a proposal to purchase new training equipment for the lifeguards on the Sunshine Coast. He is a mentor to new and older lifeguards and a leader with training lifeguard on the Sunshine Coast.


Operations Support Person on the Year

Rodney Quin – Wide Bay Capricorn


President’s Cup

Winner – Alexandra Headlands SLSC


Clive Hammond OAM Medal

Winner – Jeremy Kay, Ellis Beach SLSC

“The Selection Committee for the Clive Hammond Gold medallion found the process extremely challenging due to the high quality of the Silver Medallion recipients awarded by each Branch.  After extensive debate the Committee decided that Jeremy Kay from Ellis Beach and North Queensland Branch stands tall amongst an incredible field.  The breadth and depth of Jeremy’s involvement at all levels of the movement is truly remarkable.  From community-fundraising to being his Club’s CTO, from involvement in the Clontarf program for indigenous youth to officiating at Branch Surf Sports carnivals, from co-ordinating Branch training camps to being the Marine Stinger Advisor on the State Lifesaving Committee, Jeremy is an inspirational Surf Lifesaver and a worth winner of the Clive Hammond Gold Medallion.”